September 15th, 2011
11:52 AM ET
NBC's new romantic comedy "Free Agents," spun from the British series of the same name, is 30 minutes spent defining awkwardness in the workplace. Anybody who has spent time in a corporate setting will instantly relate.
Set in a public relations firm, all the main office-based rom-com characters are present: the boss who's a little too free with the personal details (Anthony Head), the fratty womanizer ("Chelsea Lately" regular Mo Mandel), the sassy executive assistant (Natasha Leggero), and the coworker who desperately tries to fit in and fails miserably ("The Daily Show" regular Al Madrigal).
"Free Agents" revolves around Hank Azaria's Alex, who we meet in arguably the most awkward of situations: post hook-up with his co-worker, Helen (Kathryn Hahn). Following a few fumbles, both verbal ("Is this part lights on or off?") and non-verbal (The walls full of engagement photos were cringe worthy), the scene ends with Alex breaking down in tears.
If seeing a grown man sobbing gets to you, then buckle up. Alex, in the middle of a heart-wrenching divorce, punctuates the show with occasional bursts of crying and existential crises.
What's fun, though, is how we slowly come to find out that it's not just Alex that's a mess; Helen has her share of emotional turmoil, having lost her fiancé - a loss she hasn't really begun to deal with, even a year later.
The office scenes prove fast-paced and funny, portraying a candid picture of how most of us like to imagine a major PR firm operates. Prime example: "So how do we spin this? Complete denial, or do we blame someone else?"
The show also manages to get in a fair amount of quotable one-liners. (I'm going to try to work the word "Safe-ganic" into casual conversation at least once.) And the unnervingly detailed account from Alex's boss on his method of dealing with divorce proved, well, memorable.
Azaria's Alex doesn't disappoint as a heady mix of self-awareness and self-loathing, but the person I'm most excited to see more from is Kathryn Hahn's character. I've loved her since the days of "Crossing Jordan," (am I the only one that misses that show?) and this new role seems like something she'll really play like a natural.
One character I'm not sold on is Emma, the executive assistant. I'm not sure if it's the timing, or her delivery of the sass - but I have a feeling she may turn into the character everyone loves to hate.
Should "Free Agents" make its way through an entire season, it'll be interesting to see what direction Alex and Helen's relationship will take. It's obvious there's chemistry there, but I don't think anyone - including Alex and Helen - knows what kind of chemistry.
If you caught this show, what did you think? Is there potential for "Free Agents" to turn into a strong series?
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